Student ambassadors help launch Sidechat social media app at Northwestern


Jonah Elkowitz/Daily Senior Staffer

Student social media ambassadors promoted Sidechat, a school-based anonymous social media platform, in its launch last week.

Chiara Kim, Assistant Social Media Editor

The anonymous, location-based app Yik Yak is being challenged by a younger version of itself. 

“It’s this new app that’s like better than yikyak and it pays you to post,” read one meme that a user posted to Sidechat. The campus-based social app, which launched last week at Northwestern, allows users to post anonymously like YikYak.

Users log in to the app with University-affiliated email addresses to post memes and comments to an NU-specific channel. The platform is also active at other universities such as Columbia, Harvard and Cornell. 

While Sidechat doesn’t pay users to post, the platform offered financial compensation for students that advertised the app between Oct. 3 and 4. Ambassadors promoted Sidechat by distributing cookies on campus and posting about the app on their Instagram accounts, but many disconnected from Sidechat after being paid. 

McCormick sophomore and former Sidechat ambassador Lachlan Stevens worked on the NU Sidechat Instagram account. 

“Everyone you saw post on their stories was because I recruited people,” Stevens said. “That was my job, just in charge of social media, trying to get as many people to post about (Sidechat) and follow the account as possible.”

Stevens said the app hit 1,412 downloads within its first two days of launching at the University.

Communication sophomore Kayla Cohen learned about Sidechat when she saw students from other schools promoting it. She signed up to learn more about the app, which had not yet been established at NU, and later received a text asking her to be an ambassador.  

Cohen worked with a Sidechat employee in charge of the NU marketing launch to build a list of people to promote the app. Cohen said work like the ambassadorship is uncertain because you don’t know whether the company will pay you promptly and fairly. 

“The risk with these types of startups is you don’t know their intentions,” Cohen said. “When you’re marketing it, you don’t know how reliable they’ll be.”

Still, Cohen said she had a positive experience working with Sidechat and was paid $100 for her work promoting the app.

Although she is primarily a Yik Yak user, Cohen said she also enjoys Sidechat.

“The two are very similar, (but) I just think Sidechat’s cool in that it’s just Northwestern,” Cohen said. “The tech on it works a bit better, and the ability to do memes is kind of cool.”

McCormick sophomore and former Sidechat Ambassador Camille Layden learned of the opportunity from other student ambassadors. She said the company offered her $15 for posting, predicated on an Instagram follower count exceeding 800. 

Though she decided to post for Sidechat, Layden doesn’t think Sidechat’s student ambassador work was effective. After receiving compensation, Layden unfollowed the app’s profile and took her story down.

“That first day everybody was doing it, I saw tons of posts on it, tons of upvotes, and it seemed like it was going to be more popular than Yik Yak,” Layden said. “Now, I don’t think anyone uses it.”

Layden said Yik Yak has taken steps against cyberbullying by removing reported posts or references to full names, which she said are often problems with anonymous social media apps. She does not know whether Sidechat will do the same as effectively: the Sidechat terms of use state the app has “no obligation to pre-screen user content,” but that it reserves the right to pre-screen or remove harmful content or identifiable information.

Some ambassadors said they were uncertain about whether they would participate in a similar program in the future.

Layden said she would do another ambassadorship if it was similarly low effort and had greater peer participation. Stevens said he likely would not take on a similar role, while Cohen said she would do another ambassadorship but is not actively seeking opportunities. 

“In terms of Sidechat, (there were) a lot of people on Northwestern’s campus involved in its promotion,” Cohen said. “I don’t know how involved Sidechat will be on the campus going forward.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified Kayla Cohen’s school at Northwestern. She is in the School of Communication. The Daily regrets the error.

Email [email protected]

Twitter: @chiarafkim

Related Stories: 

Northwestern students use brand ambassadorships to expand social media presence 

Students return to Yik Yak following the anonymous social app’s relaunch 

Cooper: Yik Yak reflects issues with censorship, bigotry on Northwestern’s campus